Like both of you, I will also be spending my first Christmas this year without my beloved dog, Ladd (Irish Setter). He passed 10 months ago at the age of 13 due to late-stage DCM. My heart has been shattered since he left and although I no longer cry as often, there’s a raw, empty place in my soul that he filled while he was here. My family adopted him as a puppy during my junior year of high school because I was struggling with anxiety and depression and had been begging for a puppy ever since my childhood dog had passed a few years prior. Ladd and I developed a very special bond and he was the dearest thing in the world to me. He loved and supported me and made me feel joy and comfort when little else could.
I seemed to be managing okay with the whole first Christmas thing without him being here until this weekend. It’s the weekend when we usually choose a holiday tree but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I usually love to select the family Christmas tree but this year, it just brought me stress and sadness. I ended up getting a small (3.5’) tree that I happened across while getting groceries and am planning to decorate it and place it outside near Ladd’s grave to recognize and honor him. I’ve asked other family members to figure out what to do for a tree for our house this year, since I’m just not feeling it and trying to force myself to do it is only making my depression worse. Just the thought of getting all the ornaments (including a clay paw print we made one year) and stockings out and seeing Ladd’s without having him here is enough to make me just want to fall apart and break down in tears. It pains me to such a deep level that I can’t fully explain it.
One of my favorite memories of Ladd was each Christmas morning when I would tell him that Santa came and hand him his stocking. He would then grab one gift at a time out of his stocking, and bite and paw at the paper until he had uncovered the toy inside. Strangely, wrapping paper was one of the few types of paper he didn’t eat (lol) and it was cute to see him chew at the gift to unwrap it and then shake his head and spit out the paper. He was a great gift opener and I will miss watching him with his stocking this year. He even helped our other dog open his gifts (our other dog is so happy just to have a present that he will wag his tail and carry it around unwrapped). I am grateful that my boyfriend took a video with his phone of Ladd opening his stocking one year so although he won’t be here for any future Christmases, I will always have that video to watch.
It’s also hard for me to watch the snowfall and not be able to take Ladd outside with our other dog to play in it. We got a blizzard last winter with record-breaking snowfall only a month after Ladd passed and it hurt me so much that he wasn’t here to experience it with us. He always loved the snow too and I remember when he was a small puppy hopping through our footprints in the snow while wearing his glow-in-the-dark puppy color I had gotten for him.
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone struggling with missing their pets this Christmas. May they all be happy, healthy and at peace as they experience their first Christmas in Heaven and may we somehow find comfort and peace.